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The African Union’s E-Passport Can Make Intra-African Travel & Trade Easier Than Ever Before

“The scene seems to be set to realize the dream of visa-free travel for African citizens within their own continent by 2020.”

On a 26-hour bus ride between Accra and Ouagadougou, Nanjala Nyabola sat next to a Burkinabe woman who had never met a Kenyan before who proceeds to grill her about life in Nairobi. Nyabola wrote about the unique pleasures of traveling the continent as an African for us in March.


Earlier this month, in a spirit of Pan-Africanism, the African Union announced they would be launching an electronic passport system at its next summit in Kigali, Rwanda in July. The announcement is the first step to a more open and flourishing Africa that tangibly benefits its citizens. It also has the potential to dismantle imposed colonial borders. Overall, it’ll make it easier for Africans to move for better educational and professional opportunities as well as conduct business across borders.

Nyabola’s encounter illustrates how intra-African tourism has been severely underdeveloped caused by highly restrictive visa requirements among the continent’s 54 countries. Exorbitant costs in transportation, particularly air travel, an underwhelming culture of leisure travel in addition to stereotypes Africans from different countries have about each other have also contributed to some countries' relative isolation.

As it stands, only 13 countries on the African continent allow visa-free entry or will issue temporary permit upon arrival, with Americans, one of the holders of the world’s most powerful passports benefiting the most.

Consequently, regional trade has suffered because of regulatory barriers that inhibit the exchange of goods and services. To put this in perspective, intra-African trade costs are approximately 50 percent higher than in East Asia, and the most costly for any developing region. Bureaucratic tape such as permits, licenses and other customs requirements makes it that trucks transporting goods across borders have to carry more than 1,600 documents. These factors are popular topics of discussion for Africa’s policy wonks.

“[It’s] a steady step toward the objective of creating a strong, prosperous and integrated Africa, driven by its own citizens and capable of taking its rightful place on the world stage,” Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) says in the AU’s statement announcing the program launch.

The AU’s flagship program fulfills aspirations two and seven of Agenda 2063, both of which touch on fostering an “integrated” and “united” Africa. A single passport system can help promote a shared identity among the 3,000 distinct ethnic groups on the African continent. Seychelles, Mauritius, Rwanda, and Ghana have already relaxed their visa restrictions or lifted visa requirements completely.

This concept of open borders isn’t particularly novel, it was outlined in the Lagos Plan of Action and the Abuja Treaty. Of course, the e-passport will be only a first step. AU member states still have to adopt the procedures and legislation for it to go into effect. And xenophobia presents another challenge.

As Nyabola articulates in How to Travel Africa as an African, “It never ceases to amaze me how easily we absorb other people’s prejudices about each other, without reflecting on who disseminates these stereotypes and why.” Adding, “I’m ashamed to admit that for most of my life, I had been afraid of Africa because most of the information I received about other countries has been filtered through the West.”

Plans are to roll out the e-passport to AU Heads of State and Government; Ministers of Foreign Affairs; and the Permanent Representatives of AU Member States based at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia first at the 27th AU Summit next month.

And so “the scene seems to be set to realize the dream of visa-free travel for African citizens within their own continent by 2020,” as the AU states.

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Ethiopia Will Now Grant Visas on Arrival to African Travelers

Ethiopia is the latest African nation to ease travel for African foreign nationals.

Ethiopia is making travel a lot easier for African nationals.

The country's President Mulatu Teshome, announced at the opening of parliament on Monday, that the country would begin to grant visas upon arrival to African nationals, easing the inconvenience of having to apply for them in advance. "A relaxed visa regime will enhance both Ethiopia's openness and will allow the country to harness the significant stopover transit traffic of Fly Ethiopian," he said during the ceremony.

According to Africa News, the move comes just after the country began issuing visas online for tourists and other visitors from across the world under the order of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

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44 African Countries Signed The Continental Free Trade Agreement, Here Are The Ones That Didn't

Africa's two biggest economies, South Africa and Nigeria, withheld from signing the agreement to establish The African Continental Free Trade Area.

The African Union (AU), reached new heights for its Agenda 2063 project in its recent summit where 44 African countries united to sign an agreement to establish The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in Kigali, Rwanda.

Two of Africa's largest economies, South Africa and Nigeria, withheld their signatures from the AfCFTA, along with nine other member countries. This agreement marks a new, important chapter of the AU's project 2063, which is an outline to transform Africa's socio-economy over the next 50 years. Although, the absence of signatures did not completely halt AfCFTA's establishment, it certainly hurts the image and uniting agenda of the African Union.

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Watch Nigerian-American Rapper Tobe Nwigwe's Tiny Desk Concert

Joined by his wife and seven-week old daughter, the Houston-based rapper brings his Southern sounds to NPR's Tiny Desk.

Houston-raised, Nigerian-American rapper Tobe Nwigwe is the latest artist to grace NPR's TIny Desk Concert Series.

The artist performed a 5-song medley, backed by a full band and four talented backup singers. The artist was also joined at the desk by his wife Fats Nwigwe and their seven-week old daughter.

READ: Tobe Nwigwe Is the Southern Rapper Making "Purpose Popular."

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Here Are All the Samples In Burna Boy's 'African Giant'

This video breaks down all the African Giant samples & interpolations, including songs from Fela Kuti, Magic System, Naughty By Nature, D'banj and more.

Since it dropped, Burna Boy's highly-anticipated album African Giant has been making waves and getting played on constant rotation all over the place.

The 19-track album, which includes features from Angelique Kidjo, Damian Marley, Future, M.anifest, Jorja Smith, Jeremih and more, sees the buzzing Nigerian star delivering several addictive shades of his signature afro-fusion sound as he blends in influences from afrobeat, dancehall, hip-hop, RnB and more.

Listeners have also been spotting some of the many samples and interpolations used across African Giant and now, Sample Chief, a platform for African music knowledge, has put them all together in video form.

Read: Sample Chief Selects 5 of Their Favorite Samples

The samples and interpolations across African Giant include the use of Fela's "Sorrow, Tears & Blood" and Angelique Kidjo's "We WE" (in "Anybody"), Naughty By Nature's "Jamboree" (in "Collatelral Damage"), Magic System's "1er Gaou" ("On The Low"), plus many more from the likes of Stereoman, Ududo Nnobi, Blak Ryno, and D'banj.

Check them all out below courtesy of Sample Chief.

Keep up with Sample Chief by following them on Twitter and Instagram.

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